“Those Victorians always coupled sex with death,” writes Margaret Atwood in a recent short story published in The New Yorker. This particular comment comes at the conclusion of the story, after an elderly woman exacts fatal revenge on her childhood rapist, whom she encounters on a booze cruise for seniors.
In Brian Moore’s 1975 novel ‘The Great Victorian Collection’, the staid and respectable academic Anthony Maloney dreams into life an exhibition of Victorian artefacts in historical room settings, which include “the parlor of a famous Victorian brothel” alongside objets d’art and displays from the Great Exhibition of 1851.
All — or nearly all — of the sovereigns had mistresses. On the one hand, amorous relationships and conjugal relationships were considered two separate entities; on the other, affairs seemed to be part of the king’s profession, attesting to his strength and virility as a monarch. Of course, Louis IX did not have any, which chroniclers and hagiographers stress was a remarkable exception and in keeping with the Holy King’s admirable virtue.
The theme of this article is androgyny and gender blurring within the Gothic subculture. The study of subcultures, their activities, power relations, hierarchies and constitute identities has a long tradition of intense conceptual and empirical analysis within the discipline of sociology (Hall and Jefferson 1977; Hebdige 1979; McRobbie 1995). However, despite the materiality that underpins, supports and defines the very existence of many subcultures limited attention has been paid to the consumption experiences of those involved (see, for example, Goulding, Shankar and Elliott 2002; Kates 2002 ; Kozinets 2001, 2002; Miklas and Arnold 1999; Schouten and McAlexander 1995).
Bondage, domination, and sadomasochism, also commonly known as the leather scene. When the average person hears these terms, visions of women bound and writhing in chains, or of fierce men in studded leather towering over cowering weaker ones are often the first images that come to mind. Visions of severe injury and blood, of crying and apparently non-consenting submissives being abused by sadistic and unfeeling dominants are images provided over and over again in films, fiction and even in the news. However, such images are not the norm within the BDSM and leather communities; in fact, they are the unwanted exception.
Apart from a few studies, relatively little sociological attention has been accorded the BDSM subculture. Past literature on this subculture has been limited in focus and previous studies have implemented less than well-rounded sampling. Drawing on data collected through an ethnographic approach across eleven states, this article briefly examines the lived experiences of BDSM participants. Specifically, attention is focused on how BDSM participants experience stigma in four distinct manners, including negative public portrayal, value diminishment, mockery and shunning and discrimination or prejudice. Attention then turns to the stigma management strategies BDSM participants employ, including concealment, disclosure or collective action, reappropriation of negative labelling and disengagement from mainstream society. Consistent with previous research surrounding stigma management, this article and further studies reveals that BDSM participants, like other deviant groups, take an active role in defining their identity and controlling their social interactions.